Apple to push controversial advertising privacy features despite opposition

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What you need to know

  • Apple has confirmed it plans to proceed with measures that will make it harder to track users on iOS.
  • In a response to support from a group of privacy campaigners, Apple said it will roll out the new feature early next year.
  • Facebook has blasted the move as a "distraction" and said the move was about profit, not privacy.

Apple has confirmed plans to roll out new measures in iOS 14 that will make it much harder for advertising companies to track users, despite staunch opposition from companies like Facebook.

According to The Independent:

Apple says that it will press ahead with a controversial privacy feature that has set it against companies including Facebook.Responding to a letter from a host of privacy campaigners, the company said that it is fully committed to the new update and would be rolling it out early next year.Apple software chief Craig Federighi told The Independent that the feature and the company's support for privacy is a "core value", and that the change grew out of a longstanding, philosophical commitment against excessive data collection.He insisted that the feature would eventually prove "better for even the people that are currently, at times protesting those moves" because they raise trust in the apps and devices that those developers and advertisers require to work.

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) will let users opt-out of having their data collected so they can't be tracked across apps. Advertisers are very worried that it could seriously harm the effectiveness (and likely the viability) of such advertising, as it's understood that most people when given the choice would not opt-in to the service.

A group of privacy campaigners came out in support of the move following opposition from companies like Facebook, stating in a letter:

We call on Apple to fully implement the announced anti-tracking features in iOS 14, with no further delay. As Apple's Human Rights Policy states, your company's "uncompromising commitment to security and user privacy" sets a high bar for minimizing personal data collection. Implementing and fully enforcing this policy would position Apple as a standard-setter in the industry, allowing the company not only to make high-level commitments to safeguard privacy but also to actually fulfill them.

In its own response, Apple has said it "remains fully committed to ATT" and that the release was still planned for early next year. Interestingly, Apple also stated that the feature was delayed over technical concerns regarding the functionality of apps, rather than a delay because of opposition to the principles of the new measures.

Apple took the opportunity in the letter to blast Facebook directly stating "Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products."

In a statement to MacRumors Facebook hit back at these accusations, stating they were a distraction from privacy issues in the latest macOS update. Facebook further accused Apple of putting profits ahead of privacy, saying the new measures would crush small businesses.

Speaking to the Independent, Craig Federighi noted how Apple had introduced similar measures to Safari years ago, and that at the time "parts of the ad industry were saying that the sky was going to be falling in and that their business was going to be destroyed", but that this didn't happen at all.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design. Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9